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Cannon: A picture-perfect moment doesn't capture real life
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I used to hate Martha Stewart.

Not personally, of course. It's not like I ever ran into her at Eighth Ave. Market shopping for special white fancy-pants peaches because regular peaches weren't good enough for her. I didn't know Martha Stewart in real life. Obviously.

But I didn't like her image. She was always all hey! Look at me bake a cake and make centerpieces and groom my chows and grow heirloom tomatoes and collect green pottery and go antiquing on the weekends in Connecticut! In fact, look at me do more and EVERYTHING better than you can!

I realize a lot of women felt inspired by Martha Stewart's example. And good on them! But I just felt defeated by all that perfection. Martha made it look so easy, so effortless. Meanwhile out here in Utah, I was in the thick of a messy life. A rich life, to be sure. But a messy one with lots and lots and LOTS of cakes that fell.

So yeah. I resented Martha and her lifestyle empire for making me feel bad about my own non-show-dog-grooming, non-tasteful-green-pottery-collecting, non-centerpiece-making, non-perfect life.

Then one day Martha went to jail, and when she emerged five months later, girlfriend proudly wore a homely handmade poncho, given to her as a parting gift by a fellow prisoner. For me, at least, it was an endearing, humanizing moment, and I went, "Rock on, Martha Stewart. Rock on." Even though she couldn't hear me, because you know. She was in West Virginia and I was in Utah. And also we don't actually know each other in real life.

I was thinking about this the other day as I scrolled through a number of "mommy blogs" — blogs written by young mothers for other young mothers about the experience of being (wait for it) a young mother.

I enjoyed most of them, and as a matter of fact I think blogging is an awesome way to share stories, ideas and photos. It's a great creative outlet for a lot of people — women and men. A few of the blogs, however . . . well, I wondered how they would have made me feel back in the day of my messy life. Would I have been smart enough to realize that the pictures were just snapshots of a single moment in time? And not a panoramic view of an entire life?

I doubt it.

I remembered a book I read when I was in college (back when human beings still lived in caves and commuted by brontosaurus). It was called The Image by Daniel Boorstin, who described what a ticker tape parade looks like on film as opposed to how it feels to be an observer at the actual event.

On film there's a constant flutter of shredded ticker tape. There's endless noise! Music! Cheering! That's because the camera follows the vehicle with the individuals being honored, which gives the impression to people watching the parade back home that there's a constant party, party, party going on!

Meanwhile the observer who's actually at the parade — sitting on a hard curb in the heat while wrangling a grumpy toddler who just dumped a cherry snow cone in his lap — only experiences the noise and music and cheering for the five minutes that the convertible is in his line of vision.

The point? An image frozen in time may be real enough. But it's a mistake to confuse a part for the whole — especially when you're comparing your entire life to a carefully stage-managed "perfect" piece of someone else's.

Just saying.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.

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